The Need For Labels

Prior to the Civil War cigars were commonly either sold singularly or grouped together in "wheels" or "bundles" of 25 or 50 cigars which were tied together with a ribbon.  There were no brand names on the cigars so what the smoker was purchasing was essentially the luck of the draw as to the cigars quality.

The popularity of cigar smoking suddenly surged during the Civil War.  General U.S. Grant was the Wars most visible smoker.  This increase in popularity did not go unnoticed by the politicians who were closely watching the sale of UNTAXED tobacco.  The number of manufacturers rose from 1,418 in 1850 to 5,000 by 1870.  So in an attempt to raise money to help cover war debts, the government decided to tax cigars.  To do this, cigars were to be boxed and sealed with a tax stamp applied over the lid.  This stamp was to be broken only when the box was opened.  When some small shopkeepers were found to be refilling the boxes with untaxed cigars, the government further decreed that a notice be applied to each box warning of the penalties involved with the violation.

Wooden boxes containing 50 or 100 cigars were usually branded with the maker's name in the early 1870's.  The cigars shops & saloons started displaying the boxes with the lid open to show the contents.  As the demand and competition increased, so did the number of open boxes on shelves and counters; hence identification of the product now became important. In an attempt to lure the smoker to sample his product, the cigar maker added a colorful label to the inside of the lid of the open cigar box.

By the 1880's & 1890's the cigar buying public was also becoming more discriminating and the variation in shape and color had become important.  In 1900, "Miller, Dibrell & Peters, the largest maker of cigar molds, issued a catalogue containing 458 combinations of length, shape and thickness and clearly showed how individualized the industry had become.

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